Friday, March 8, 2013

ODU bids adieu to the CAA on Sunday; join us for the memories

TJ Jordan, Shareese Grant
On Sunday in Boston Old Dominion closes the book on a glorious chapter in its history: 22 years in the Colonial Athletic Association. For the first 17, the Lady Monarchs didn't just win the CAA, they owned it, dominating conference opponents at one point by winning 113 games in a row, in other words zero CAA losses between Feb. 22, 1992 and Jan. 9, 2004. Aubrey Eblin never knew what it felt like to lose a CAA game in her four years; Ticha lost just one.

LadySwish wasn't there for all of the glory years but chronicled many of them. In the '90s, frankly, conference games and conference tournaments seemed like an afterthought given the oppression foes suffered in CAA games.

What a run, Lady Monarchs! Here are 10 of my memories from it.

Old Dominion 78, Delaware 74 OT, CAA Tournament championship, March 12, 2005
You'd have bet the house and all its contents that the streak would end here. ODU had been swept by the Hens; the loss in Norfolk was only its second in conference history at the time. The Lady Monarchs looked like goners with their frontline fouled out and were reduced to using a walk-on at point guard. We know it's a team game, but we commend Shareese Grant for a one-woman show that brought ODU back. Grant scored 35 including 15 of ODU's final 18, and Tina Martin quipped that ODU won, "Because they had Shareese Grant and we didn't."

Old Dominion 68, George Mason 63 OT, CAA Tournament semifinal, March 8, 2002
Patriots coach Debbie Taneyhill never figured out the Lady Monarchs, but this team sure looked to be the winner in a CAA tournament semifinal at the Field House. Jen Derevjanik layup that almost was could have halted ODU's tournament win streak, but fairy dust took over -- no way ODU was going to lose its second to last game in the Field House -- and Okeisha Howard's 3 with a minute left allowed the Lady Monarchs to prevail one more time.

Old Dominion 82, George Mason 76 (3 OT), Jan. 27, 1994
I confess I didn't see it, only heard about it from Wendy. Shonda Deberry scored a career-high 29, including the last nine in the third OT.

Snow and ice storm in D.C.; heavy traffic forced ODU to arrive at the Patriot Center about 45 minutes before tipoff. ODU scored just 18 points before the break (trailed 30-18). Deberry was scoreless in the first half and missed all five of her shots before the break, then came alive. ODU survived the OTs without CAA Player of the Year Celeste Hill, who fouled out late in regulation.

Old Dominion 64, Drexel 63 CAA Tournament semifinal, March 10, 2005
ODU walked the tightrope again but owned the boards and overcame a 22-point effort by Narissa Suber to avenge an earlier-season loss the the Dragons and advance to its 14th straight CAA final.

James Madison 87, Old Dominon 80, Feb. 27, 1995
Meredith Alexis flanked by Tiffany Green
The streak started after this loss, a game that Wendy Larry used as a teaching tool. Postgame, she explained a talented Penicheiro-led team that letdowns against conference foes are unacceptable for the Lady Monarchs. Take nothing away from Sarah Schreib and Holly Rilinger, though, who challenged ODU with a fearlessness that most conference foes couldn't muster.

Reflecting on the ODU/JMU series, LadySwish can't remember individual games as much as moments and players. Simply put, these two teams have had an awesome rivalry in gyms so alive they rivaled Cameron Indoor Stadium. Loved the JMU band and attitude back in the day. Loved watching Meredith Alexis emerge from the tunnel looking ready to erupt. ODU brought out the best in Rilinger, Schreib, Lesley Dickinson and a mess of Dukes who reveled in matching up against the Lady Monarchs. Sad to see this rivalry become a casualty of decisions made on behalf of football.

Old Dominion 103, UNCW 22, Jan 21, 1996
Picking this game because it simply represents the kind of beatdown ODU regularly inflicted on CAA foes. There were several full seasons when the opponent's offense wasn't apparent because of a ridiculously aggressive ODU defense that kept the clamps on for 40 minutes.

Old Dominion 72, American 70, Feb. 19, 1999
American never did figure out ODU minus one win in 1992 but came achingly close on this night. Wendy Larry used to preach to her teams that CAA foes treated the Lady Monarchs like national title opponents, and an Eagles team trying to avoid the conference tournament's play-in game gave all ODU it could handle. The AU players left the court look happier than ODU, but Mery Andrade and Lucienne Berthieu refused to be part of a loss at Bender Arena.

Old Dominion 66, Delaware 58, CAA Tournament championship, March 15, 2003
Delaware looked primed for the title during a season when ODU suffered an unthinkable three consecutive regular-season losses. Allison Trapp brought out all her goods, but ODU played its best ball of the season behind Shareese Grant, tourney MVP, Monique Coker and Kim Giddens to win its 12th  league title.

Old Dominion 78, James Madison 70, CAA Tournament championship, March 11, 2007
The Dukes had five in double figures, outrebounded ODU and barely missed a free throw, but it all added up to Sweet 16 for ODU (remember TJ Jordan's insane 3 before the break?) This was such a gritty effort you wondered if the Lady Monarchs could ever lose in a CAA Tournament that belonged to them ever since they joined the league.

Drexel 61, Old Dominion 42, March 9, 2009
Yep, they finally lost in the CAA Tournament, and really, they were never in it against a Dragons team that went on to win its first conference tournament. LadySwish remembers none of the details, just that it would be the last ODU game she would cover in the traditional newspaper sense. Reporters must remain objective to do their job, and despite enjoying the team and coaches, I never lost mine. I walked into the locker room postgame expecting tears from them, but instead they were from me. Every single Lady Monarch gave me a hug that day as did Larry prior to going to the podium postgame. Class team, class act and something I've never forgotten.

1 comment:

  1. Great walk down memory lane! I think people forget how tough an accomplishment it was to keep the streak alive. The caa was better than people gave it credit for. We were just that good.